Author: Darrell

USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor closed indefinitely

Damage to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu was worse than expected and it will remain closed indefinitely, officials said. Boat transportation to the attraction was suspended May 6 after one of the vessel operators noticed a crack on the outside of the memorial, Hawaii News Now reported . Tourists were allowed to disembark at the memorial after crews completed interim repairs. But the cracks reappeared hours later, indicating a more serious issue. “There is a brow or an edge where the visitor ramp meets the memorial, and at that point, there’s been some fissures located on the exterior,” said Jay Blount, a spokesman for the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. “After further investigation on the interior, it was determined that the structure is not supporting the loading ramp the way that we need.” Engineers are working to figure out possible long-term solutions. “The amount of time needed to implement the repairs is unknown, but the (National Park Service) will continue to provide information to the public as our team of specialist work together to restore access as soon as possible,” memorial staff said Friday in a news release. Other areas of the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center remain...

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645,000 Poppies, each representing a fallen service member, on display at The National Mall

By: Task & Purpose, on May 25, 2018, T&P on Facebook This Memorial Day weekend, a temporary installation honoring the nation’s fallen service members dating back to World War I will be on display at the National Mall in Washington. Created by USAA as part of their annual Memorial Day ceremony in 2016, the current memorial is a traveling exhibit, larger in scale, more robust, and able to be set up outdoors. This year marks the first large public display of the memorial; it will be on the South side of the Lincoln Memorial from May 25 to May 27. “Many are not necessarily aware of what the significance, or purpose, of Memorial Day,” Eric Engquist, USAA’s vice president of enterprise brand management and a former U.S. Army infantry officer and West Point graduate, told Task & Purpose. “The wall really does stand as a reminder of the price of freedom that we all enjoy.” On one side of the wall will be the multitude of poppies, and the other will feature a collection of facts and figures from U.S. conflicts dating back to World War I. There are interactive screens set up around the exhibit, which visitors can use to learn about the the individual service members memorialized on the Poppy Memorial. The memorial poppies were donated by the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. The significance...

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Senate Approves Massive Overhaul of VA Health Care

By: Richard Sisk, Military.com 23 May 2018 The Senate voted to approve the Mission Act, which will expand private health care options for the nine million members the VA serves. The Senate voted 92-5 Wednesday to approve landmark legislation to transform how the Department of Veterans Affairs delivers health care, but not before concerns were raised that funds have yet to be found to pay the estimated $55 billion price tag. “It’s not paid for,” Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, said in the brief floor debate on the VA Mission Act to expand private health care options for veterans. “I believe we should care for our veterans in a fiscally responsible manner” and not have to borrow to fund the bill. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, acknowledged at a Senate news conference Tuesday that funding for the bill was lacking, but both expressed confidence that the money would be found for a bill crucial to veterans’ care. The Mission Act would replace the current Veterans Choice Program over the course of a year and expand the options for the nine million veterans served annually by the VA to choose private and community care when it’s in their best interests. President Donald Trump has pledged to sign the bill quickly; a signing ceremony is expected on Memorial Day. Isakson said...

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VA will formally pursue the same health records platform as the Pentagon

From GovExc The Veterans Affairs Department inked a 10-year, $10 billion contract Thursday with Cerner Corp. to adopt the same commercial electronic health records system as the Pentagon. Veterans Affairs Acting Secretary Robert Wilkie in a statement said VA’s future health records system will seamlessly communicate and exchange records with the Pentagon’s, resolving an issue that cost the agencies billions in recent years. “President Trump has made very clear to me that he wants this contract to do right by both Veterans and taxpayers, and I can say now without a doubt that it does,” Wilkie said. “Signing this contract today is an enormous win for our nation’s veterans. It puts in place a modern IT system that will support the best possible health care for decades to come. That’s exactly what our nation’s heroes deserve.” The contract with Cerner was announced last year by then-Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, but several issues, including congressional funding and Shulkin’s eventual firing, slowed the contract’s final signing. According to Wilkie, the Cerner contract will allow the agencies to share patient data among Veterans Affairs, the Defense Department and community providers “through a secure system.” Combined, the two agencies have more than 20 million beneficiaries, including soldiers and veterans. “Health information will be much easier to share, and health care will be much easier to coordinate and deliver, as well as faster and...

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Long term direction of VA uncertain; 50 days without a secretary

By: Mackenzie Wolf, May 17, 2018, The American Legion The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has now been without a secretary for 50 days, leaving the organization in a state of limbo. The absence of permanent senior leadership in the wake of former Secretary Shulkin’s firing on March 28 and a high job vacancy rate across the enterprise has left many veterans uncertain about the future strategic direction of the VA. Despite the glaring deficiencies in both leadership and personnel, VA spokesman Curt Cashour said, “Under President Trump, VA has had its most productive year in decades — we have made groundbreaking progress, particularly in the areas of accountability, transparency and efficiency across the department.” The American Legion counts 17 major issues that remain unaddressed in the absence of permanent Senate-confirmed leadership at the head of the VA. The most glaring problem is the high vacancy rate at the VA. As of March 8, the vacancy rate is nearly 9 percent, amounting to more than 33,600 personnel. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the hardest hit by the vacancies, is short more than 30,000 health-care providers and administrative personnel. Strangely, not all of the job vacancies are listed on USA JOBS. “I can’t identify any large corporation or hospital that has a nearly 9 percent vacancy rate and still attests to operating efficiently,” said Louis Celli, American Legion National Veterans...

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